SOUTH PORTLAND — The historic former Griffin Club sports bar at 60 Ocean St. in Knightville is being razed this week.
Construction of a new building in its place is expected to being in mid-May.
The Griffin Club was founded five decades ago as a boxing club by Eddie Griffin, a promoter of professional and amateur sports.
The walls of the former club, known by most as simply “The Griff,” were lined with historic photos of the bar’s founder, athletes – including boxers and baseball players who visited the establishment – and historic photos of Knightville.
The building is also where Gorham native Ellen G. White, a co-founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, had her first vision, during a prayer meeting.
Ginger Cote bought the circa-1900 building last June for $600,000. Her plans for a new, four-story building with a music venue and restaurant on the first floor and five residential condos above were approved last week by the Planning Board.
Cote, who was one of a small group who gathered to watch the demolition begin Tuesday morning, said it was a long year to get to this point.
She said the height of the Griffin Club’s popularity was while its founder operated the tavern. Griffin, who died in 1993, was a special person, Cote said, and she purchased the building with the hope of carrying on the spirit of the business through music.
She said there will be a plaque dedicated to Griffin in the new building, and acknowledgment of the building’s history as a boxing club and Irish pub that in its heyday attracted national sports celebrities alongside a local clientele.
Cote also said many people passing by have said how happy they are that there will be new development.
Another onlooker, 40-year South Portland resident Candy Fitzgerald, said the Griff welcomed everyone.
“It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from,” she said.
Fitzgerald said she was surprised by the emotion she felt watching the structure come apart piece by piece, but said she is looking forward to new life in the neighborhood.
She also told Cote there are many spirits of characters gone by on the corner of Ocean and C streets.
Cote said she’s going to keep the party going for those spirits.
The Aroostook County native has lived in South Portland for 15 years. She is a professional musician who has toured for 40 years with artists including Bonnie Raitt, Cidny Bullens and Emmylou Harris. She plays guitar and piano, but her main instrument is percussion; she said there is a need for a music scene in the city and additional support for the arts.
No outdoor concerts are planned at the new venue, and the entertainment will largely be acoustic performances. The tavern will include a lounge area and 47 seats, and be open for lunch and dinner, until midnight.
Cote said she will live above the restaurant in one of the condominiums, and she has the same desire as her neighbors for a peaceful neighborhood.
Demolition of the former Griffin Club begins Tuesday in South Portland while onlookers, including owner Ginger Cote, watch from across C Street.
Demolition of the former Griffin Club building begins Tuesday, April 17, in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood.